I’ve been staring at a blank document for over a week

Sometimes I blog because I’m not writing.  I know this seems like a far-fetched idea since I literally just posted about writing 40k in 17 days last week, but you wanna know what was also happening last week?  Not a whole lot of those words.  There’s this really great saying in yoga, that life is like a vinyasa.  It ebbs and flows.  There are ups and downs, and sometimes life is going to kick you in the ass.  Sometimes, life is going to be really awesome to you.

Sometimes, you’re going to write 40k in 17 days, and then, sometimes, you’re not going to write a single word for over a week.  After that post, I hit a kind of lull.  I knew what needed to come next, but there were a few small pieces missing.  The Saints are off on a job, and they’ve got to traverse this super dangerous landscape called the Dying Lands.  I know what’s going to happen in the Dying Lands to a certain degree, and I know what’s going to happen in part three in almost every single chapter.  What I didn’t know was what happens after they leave Obera, but before they get to the Dying Lands.  Filler, you might call it, and though it often sounds boring, it’s as often necessary.  I wrote this really interesting chapter in a priest’s POV about the history of the Saints, and used this perspective to see the Saints escaping Obera from a third party since I just couldn’t work out how to show it through one of theirs.  It was excellent, and I really enjoyed the chapter.  And then, I spent a week on Tumblr, I read Strange the Dreamer rather slowly, I reread some of my old fanfiction, and I just–didn’t do a whole lot?  I watched the entirety of Alias Grace (10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND) on Sunday.  I caught up on all my TV shows (and am now behind again, it’s a vicious cycle).  I was just kind of shuffling along.  I had legit no idea what I was supposed to write.

And then, probably about mid-week, I had a light bulb.  Ah ha!  My next chapter should be in Henry’s POV.  It’s been a while since we last saw him, and there’s going to be a crap ton that needs to happen with him.  Right.  Here we go.

Chapter 25

And yeah, that was about all I wrote for that chapter for two or three days.  At this point, I was really starting to get frustrated.  I kept scrolling through the Saints Pinterest board trying to get inspired.  I listened to songs that reminded me of Henry and Cole.  I kept the document open just in case.   I reread bits of Henry’s last chapter to try to get me in the headspace of where they were, and what they should be doing.  While driving, I would think of what the first line would be, scrap it within five minutes, and start over again.  When I’d get home, I would set up for success: pillows, tea, Henry music, Pinterest board open, annnnnnnnd nothing.  I’d end up on YouTube watching Buzzfeed or scrolling through Tumblr.

And wow, let me be the first person to tell you that this ^^^ is all hugely toxic to your writing.  If it’s not coming to you, or if the scene is not working, stop trying to make it work.  It’s the same thing in yoga.  If you can’t do a handstand, don’t beat yourself up and continue to try to do it.  Instead, use building blocks.  Do strengthening exercises to help your core and your shoulders get used to the idea of standing on your hands.  Work on poses that will open and release and give you more stability in the long run.  Work on the whole body instead of just one thing.

So, the weekend comes along, and I’m still fairly aggravated by my lack of writing.  I spent Saturday with my parents, and it’s finally not October, so decided to go into Salem.  I took Strange the Dreamer to Life Alive, got the Alchemist bowl, and had easily one of the best hours of my life.  I just love that cafe so much.  I need to move back to the North Shore just so I can be closer to it and spend all of my money there forever shhhh.  After Life Alive, my journey is pretty much the same every time.  Walk past Harrison’s and decide not to go in, promise the Tibetan shop that I’ll stop in on the way back and try not to buy anything (and fail), and make my second stop at Coven’s Cottage.  I’m linking both their website and their Facebook here because WOW.  Coven’s Cottage is my jam, and you can definitely see influences of it in Mason’s book.  I absolutely adore it in there, and I will spend no less than $50 every single time I go in.

It was closed.  I’m still so sad.  I should have looked it up beforehand just to be sure since this was the weekend before Thanksgiving, but they took the entire week off until Friday (today).  Don’t worry, I’m going back tomorrow.  Sad as I was, this left me stalling on Essex St in front of Village Silversmith, and I thought, well, I do need to do some Christmas shopping.  (Yes, I gift crystals for Christmas, shut up.)  Probably a half hour later, and I had a bag of new goodies (two for myself), and decided it was high time to make my way down to Jolie Tea.  Also linking their website and Facebook.

Now, anyone who’s known me for at least a year knows where this path leads.  Tea and words and magic, hm.  What might that look like?


Hi yes, it looks like Mason.  Madhouse’s interior is inspired by both Life Alive and Jolie Tea.  Most of his story was developed in those two shops.  Coven’s Cottage makes appearances in the Hyacinth, and in Mason’s tea-brewing room.  Salem is ingrained deeply in his story.

Sadly, Jolie Tea was booked solid.  They do high tea on Saturdays, and all of their three tables were taken up, so I got my black lavender lemon tea to go, and good grief if that wasn’t one of the most delicious teas I’ve ever had in my life.  It was just so good.  At this point, I’m on my way back to the car, wondering where my meter might be, and I’m standing at the crosswalk, waiting for the signal to go, when my brain does a little twist and asks, “What if the story isn’t about all four elements being reborn?  What if the earth element has been a solid, living thing for many, many years?  It would make more sense, right, for at least one element to be steady, instead of all four changing?”

Oh, hell.

I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that I wasn’t writing Saints because my brain was in an entirely different world.  Which, weird, right, that I didn’t know?  Remember when I talked about the Sheldon Cooper Writer’s Block thing?  I didn’t even realize that I needed to work on Mason, but the words that I “needed” to write for Saints weren’t coming because that part of my brain had done a complete 180 and stuck itself on fixing The Mason Problem.  What is The Mason Problem?

It’s this thing where I really, really want to write Mason, but I don’t know what the plot of his novel is, so I can’t write it, obviously.  That’s Part A of the problem.  Part B is that the insecure part of me that still thinks I will never be able to write his novel properly is still at large.  I’m working on it every single day, and eventually, we’re going to come to terms with each other.  Coming back to the present, though, I spent the drive home drinking this amazing tea and kind of halfway thinking about Mason without any real commitment.  On Sunday, I watched Alias Grace, and then it was back to work for two days before a–drumroll, please–six day weekend.  Holla!  I’m on day three of six right now, and I’m so stoked.  I took the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, and the Monday after because why not.  The other thing that happened beside Netflix and chill on Sunday was Worth It UK’s Afternoon Tea video.  Yo, linked it right there because they did the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in England, and it was incredible.  I want to go so bad.  Sunday night, I picked out my outfit to see Maggie Stiefvater the following day, Jen tried straightening my hair to see if it was long enough yet (HOLY CRACKERS IT’S NOT), and went to bed still feeling a little frustrated with not being able to write.  And then, well.  I woke up to something crazy.

I went to work, drank my tea, took out my notebook, and scribbled out a quick page of plot notes for Mason.  No one warns you these things are going to happen, FYI.  No one tells you that you’re going to dream up an entire book in your sleep (looking at you, Saints).  No one tells you that one of your characters is going to inhabit your every waking moment (Alex, you little shit).  No one tells you that your brain is going to be completely taken over by the sudden urge to plot out an entire novel that you’ve been struggling with for almost a year.  What the hell, Mason, why.  Why now, felt like the more appropriate question.  I was in a groove.  I was writing Saints.  I was–wait, no I wasn’t.  I hadn’t written Saints, at this point, for over a week.  Okay, then.  So I snapped a picture of the outline, sent it to Patrick and Jen without any real explanation other than “so this just happened”, and went about my day.

That night (Monday), I went to see Maggie (more on this later), got home super late after some bleh Mexican, rushed around Tuesday doing last minute things for work, taught class, got home early since no one came to beginner’s, and promptly put myself in front of my laptop to write the words for Saints.  Fail.

Like, stop doing this, Mary.  Stop setting yourself up for failure.  If it’s not working, it’s not working, and leave it the hell alone.  Stop picking at the scab and sticking salt in the wound.  All of you.  Knock it off.  Leave your novel the hell alone if it doesn’t want to be written.  Like, jiminy cricket, go outside and howl at the goddamn moon if you have to, but stop trying to write.

No, I’m not writing Mason again.  It’s there.  The plot is starting to form, and I have some ideas that I think will really work to create what I couldn’t before.  It’s percolating, as they say.  To be fair, I’m also actively not writing it.  I was trying to decide which book to read next, and I really, really want to finally pick up Tithe by Holly Black, but like, faeries, guys.  There’s a lot of faeries in that.  Like, that’s the plot.  It’s faeries.  I can’t read it.  I’m going to write Mason if I read it, I promise you.  So, I picked up The Girl at Midnight instead because there’s a blurb on the back that says it’s catnip for Cassandra Clare fans (I swear, I’m going to reread The Mortal Instruments series next year before the new season of Shadowhunters comes out), and I figured something modern-set would help keep me in the Saints mind.  It’s working, but we’ll get to that.

No, I’m not writing Mason again, but I might be soon?  We’ll see.  Saints has probably 10-20k left of part two, and then part three is gonna be real quick.  I’m expecting to hit 150k for this book.  It’s at 90k AS OF TODAY, OH MY GOSH, I’M SO EXCITED.  But I can feel Mason stirring.  I know I say that a lot, that he’s right there, just waiting, but it’s the truth.  I think about him a lot.  I miss him a lot.  The other day, I finally told Patrick the whole dirty story of what happened between Jack and me, and how I felt about Mason after all of it.  Even months later, I’m still trying to convince myself that I can write a novel, and that, more importantly, I can write Mason’s.  Whenever I do eventually sit back down to write it, it’s going to be a lot of hard work to overcome that dark, brooding part of me that’s saying, in one of my best friend’s voices, that I’m a horrible writer and that this novel is the worst thing ever written.  It is going to be a hell of a time to get through it again, but I want to.  Doesn’t that say something beautiful about words, that they can be so powerful that even after something truly awful, they’re still right there growing?  Man, I just love words.

I’m trying to wrap this up, I promise.  Two nights ago, on Wednesday, instead of opening up chapter 25 in Henry’s POV to stare at angrily, instead of playing the same song over and over, instead of wandering around aimlessly through YouTube and Tumblr and Netflix, I just put on music that I wanted to listen to, put on the iTunes screensaver, and read the last 200 pages of Strange the Dreamer.  I went to bed content for the first time in over a week.  I ate more food than should be legal yesterday, and I successfully helped cook Thanksgiving for the first time.  We didn’t die, and it was delicious!  When I got home, I lit some candles, made some tea, picked out a new book to read, and started writing.  I can’t even tell you what the in between looked like, where I got my laptop and opened up Henry’s chapter, but suddenly, the words were just happening.  I’d finally, after several long days of frustration, stopped trying to write and instead just let Mason happen and Lazlo Strange happen and the world turn around me.  By the time Jen got home last night, I had written 4500 words, had the rest of part three worked out, and can now see the end in sight.

Today, I’ve only written a little over 3000 words, but this puts me just under 2000 words away from 50k for the month of November, which I plan to accomplish tonight, and this novel is starting to sprint toward its end.  I know the timeframe that I’m working with before part three, I know how part three unfolds, and I know what the last scene is (the last line, too, actually).  Does this mean I know what’s coming next?  Nah.  I do know that I’d like to work on the second draft for Pen boys, or that I’d like to write the second draft for Mason.  I know that I’d like to maybe even write something different altogether since I’ve been thinking about Shri a little, though that’s highly unlikely.  I imagine whatever comes next, it’ll be with one of these teams–Saints, the Pen boys, or Madhouse.  And you know what, I’m gonna try to be done stressing about what comes next, and just let it happen.  No more blank documents open while I do something unproductive.  If I’m not writing, and I have free time, I’m going to read.  I’ve got this.  And so do you.  So stop panicking about an empty chapter, and go do something else.

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